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FREIBURG, GERMANY leads the way as it shows the world what can be done to mitigate climate change while improving the quality of life in an urban setting through integrated development.



Freiburg: the greenest city in the world

By Amado de Jesus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:37:00 10/11/2008

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Construction & Property

MANILA, Philippines?Homes that consume a mere 15 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year, a car-less area that gives priority to bicycles and pedestrians and a green kindergarten school have made the German city of Freiburg an exceptional model for sustainable development.

While many countries merely aspire for developing sustainable projects, Freiburg leads the way as it shows the world what can be done to mitigate climate change while improving the quality of life in an urban setting.

Freiburg, like many other European cities, suffered during the Second World War when it was heavily damaged by Allied bombers. It had no industry and its biggest employer was the university, which accounted for its highly educated populace. It had very limited financial resources and as a result, the city was determined to use these resources wisely. Its goal was to make Freiburg one of the greenest cities in the world.

Integrated development

The key to the success of Freiburg is its integrated approach to development. Its city planning department, headed by architect Wulf Danseking, concentrated studies on inner city development by creating a compact community where people live close together, like they did during the medieval period. The city set new standards in energy consumption, public transport, water conservation and the active participation of its citizens. Freiburg?s main goal was to create a green city that balances working and living areas integrated with green spaces and neighborhood centers for social interaction, cultural events and other related activities.


To encourage more affordable housing, small plots of land are allocated to private builders and cooperative-building projects, rather than traditional and expensive developers.

Apartment buildings have height limitations so that parents can shout to their children in the garden and hear their reply.

Low energy standards

The typical home in Germany and in most of Europe uses 220 kWh/sq m/yr. This is the standard used to rate Asean green buildings. But in the city of Freiburg, they set the standard for buildings at 65 kWh/sq m/yr., and for homes at 15 kWh/sq m/yr.

?Plus energy houses? are also being built in Freiburg. These are houses that generate more energy than they need.

Solar collectors are extensively used as roofing for many of the buildings and houses, thereby drastically reducing CO2 emissions.


Providing fast, cheap and clean public transport early in the city development was a major factor in the greening of Freiburg. Since buses and trains in the city are faster and more efficient, many people patronize them.

Specific areas in the city are classified as ?no-car zones,? thus reducing the use of cars in the entire district. This has resulted in a noticeable improvement in the quality of life.

For many parts of the residential areas, parking is prohibited on private property. Community car parks are therefore built near the ?no-car zones.?

Cars are only allowed in the residential areas for pickup and delivery. Parking is allowed for a maximum of 25 minutes only in these special areas. Along main roads, the speed limit is 30 kph and in the residential areas, the limit is 5 kph only, which is classified as ?walking speed.?

This concept is possible due to the integrated development of Freiburg which considered establishments within walking and cycling distance.


Rainwater is allowed to infiltrate the ground to recharge the aquifer while sewage waste is collected in a biogas plant together with organic household waste to generate biogas for cooking.

The rest of the wastewater is cleaned and recycled.

Green urban development

Germany and other developed countries are adopting sustainable principles in planning cities. They try to balance blending and segregating work, living, business and recreational areas. They plan areas with a variety of uses that are built on a smaller scale with the pedestrian in mind.

Parks and other green areas are created by people who live nearby. They are properly maintained because they take care of it themselves.

Business is planned to serve urban development in a service-based society. This is greatly enhanced by communications technologies that decentralize work activities and therefore change zoning laws.

Freiburg closed the big shops outside the city so that small shops inside the city can prosper.

Urban development in the past centered on the middle-class and their cars. Today children, the handicapped and the old are given much more consideration. This is due to the reality of a declining population in developed countries.

The birth dearth in Europe (as well as in the United States, Japan and Singapore) is affecting city planning. In the United States, the average household of 3.33 persons in 1960 dropped to 2.76 in 1980, and 2.65 in 1995. Fifty-one countries in the world today are no longer able to replace their population. These 51 countries represent 44 percent of the population of the world. Therefore, flexibility of plan is increasingly becoming evident in designing homes, offices, buildings and cities. Combining spaces and not building unnecessary space has become a sustainable practice.

For comments or inquiries, email amadodejesus@gmail.com.

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